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If you would ask the Romanians about a book written by Miklos Banffy you would get no information from them. One of the greatest writers who lived and wrote on the territory of present Romania is completely unknown. And that’s because of the dispute over Transylvania between the Hungarians and Romanians. But if you leave aside these disputes, centuries old, and the historical theories, you will discover a great book, a great way to promote Transylvania and to make it more tantalizing in the eyes of the foreign visitors.
Miklos Bannfy was born in 1873 in Transylvania, now part of Romania in a very reach family, important landlords and with a great local influence. His family arrived in Transylvania in the 15th century becoming one of the most important local Hungarian dynasties of Transylvania. They owned several estates, one of them being the Banffy Palace from Cluj Napoca (Kolozsvar in Hungarian). Another important estate was the one from Bontida where the family owned an important country estate.
Miklos Banffy became member of the Hungarian Parliament in 1901 then he continued his political career as minister of Foreign Affairs in the 1921 government. In 1943 he traveled to Bucharest in an attempt to convince Romania to abandon the Axis together with Hungary. Because the dispute over the northern Transylvanian territory, in hands of the Hungarians since 1940, the deal was never reached.
At the end of WWII the Soviets occupied both Romania and Hungary, the northern part of Transylvania having an unclear status. Miklos Banffy remained in Bontida, which had been previously destroyed by the German army, till 1949 when the Romanian communists finally allowed him to leave for Budapest. He died the very next year.
In 2009 I had the chance of having as my tourist the former Queen’s Counsle, Lord Carnwath of Notting Hill, who gave me the first volume of this novel. That’s the way I found for the first time about Banffy. Ironically, in 2013 somebody from Wall Street Journal, the US edition, published one of my pictures from Transylvania right next to an article about Banffy written by Max Egremont. The title of this article “The Romance of a Decaying World” is quite interesting.
Banffy’s most known book, ‘The Transylvanian Trilogy’ consists of 3 volumes: They Were Counted, They Were Found Wanting and They Were Divided. The novel, published between 1934 and 1940, describes in about 1500 pages the careless life of the aristocratic families and Hungarian politicians, many times interested by parties, horses and hunting games only. These political sorties are interspersed with the love of Abady, the main character, for Adrienne.
Named many times as Tolstoy of Transylvania, Miklos Banffy wrote one of the most interesting novels I ever read. His estate from Bontida, destroyed by the German army and then forgotten by the communists, had been given back to the right descendants of Miklos Banffy. Unfortunately, this place is really affected and requires a lot of imagination to be able to see the former luxurious life from here. It’s being under a long processed of restoration but in a very low motion. If this estate of Miklos Banffy from Bontida would be finished then definitely it would be a great tourist attraction of Transylvania and Romania.
In the spring of 2012 I took a series of pictures of the estate from Bontida. I was there with one of my tourists. Now, the dogs are the only creatures running freely throughout the courtyard of the palace. Let’s hope the future will be different.
The village of Bontida is located 31km north-east of Cluj Napoca. At the begining there was no admission tax but now there is a guard who charges 3 Lei for the entrance ticket. The book can be purchased here.
Should you be interested in a tour around the village of Miklos Bannfy then please contact me for more details.